Scrutinize Canadian mining activities in Philippines

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page -

A FILIPINO DELEGATION has asked Canada to appoint an ombudsperson to monitor Canadian mining operations in the Philippines following reports of alleged human rights violations, according to the diocesan newspaper Anglican Journal.

It said the five-member delegation that included an Anglican Bishop Antonio Ablon, Rep. Carlos Zarate, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources; Dr Anie Bautista, national coordinator for the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines; and Nenita Condez and Eufemia Cullamat, both indigenous tribe leaders, travelled to Ottawa and met with different members of parliament and staff from the Global Affairs Canada and Canadian and Filipino communities. Bishop Ablon confirmed the trip – from March 20 to April 5 – and told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner that it was sponsored by KAIROS and supported by over a dozen civil society and grassroots organizations in Canada and the delegation raised various concerns about the mining operations back home.

He said during their meetings, delegation members shared firsthand account of human rights violations in the Philippines particularly in the context of mining projects and people claiming harm from mining activities face displacement, violence, intimidation, criminalization and military incursions in their communities.

Among the mining firms operating in the Philippines, especially on Mindanao region, is the TVI Resources Development, the Philippine subsidiary of Calgarybased TVI Pacific, Inc. “We want that foreign corporations operating in our country, particularly Canadian, to be held accountable for their complicities in the commission of human rights violations against our people,” said Bishop Ablon, of the Philippine Independent Church, which has a concordat relation with the Anglican Church.

“We want that Philippine laws and armed forces to promote and protect the Filipino people’s civil, socio-economic- and political rights, not international trade and investments at the expense of those rights. People’s rights in resource rich communities in Mindanao are being violated and some who choose to stand their ground are being killed,” he added.

In July 2013, Bishop Ablon, who is a strong environmental advocate and one of the conveners of the Advocates for Peace, said he fears for his safety following a break-in inside his house in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province on Mindanao.

He said his housekeeper discovered the break-in after his bedroom’s window was forcibly broke into by a still unidentified assailant. He said there were no valuable items in his “modest” bedroom. “There was nothing robbed and lost as there was none to be robbed off. However, I feared for my safety right now as it happened while we are preparing for the solidarity mission to the mining area in Bayog town of Zamboanga del Sur where TVI is set to operate,” he said.

Bishop Ablon was one of the conveners of the Advocates for Peace which, together with Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Karapatan human rights group that held a three-day solidarity mission in Bayog. The purpose of the mission, he said, was “to share compassion and concrete love for the very least, exploited and disadvantaged sector particularly those suffering from the impact of largescale mining operations.” The bishop said he and other organizers conducted a feeding program among the children and the poor in Bayog and followed by a tree planting.

For her part, Condez Deputy Secretary General of the indigenous group Salabukan nok G’taw Subanen -appealed to the Canadian government to help indigenous tribes in the Philippines “achieve justice or will just sit idle and do nothing while corporate greed continue to cause havoc on our already destroyed lives?”

The Anglican Journal reported that Ed Bianchi, program manager for KAIROS, said that during the learning tour, they gathered information from community groups, government members and people who work for TVIRD. “From that, we called on the Philippine government to stop all mining in the area until they could ensure the safety of the people and also to investigate those human rights violations,” Bianchi was quoted as saying.

TVIRD has maintained that it “operates under the highest standards of health and safety practices for its workers and its host community and is uncompromising in its best-practices approach to environmental protection as well as community development,” according to its website.

KAIROS is also working with other organizations in Canada in urging the Canadian government to appoint an extractive-sector ombudsperson with the power to investigate and address the claims, said Bianchi. “We also call on the government to legislate and facilitate access to Canadian courts for those people overseas who are claiming that their rights have been violated by a Canadian company,” he said.

Nenita Condez, deputy secretary general of the Salabukan nok G’taw Subanen (SGS), a federation of Subanen groups, said TVIRD occupied “thousands and thousands” of hectares of land for its mining operations in Mindanao, displacing thousands of people.

Emily Dwyer, coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, said what is happening in the Philippines is not isolated to that country and “We’re hearing continuously, and have been for over a decade, accounts of widespread, credible allegations of serious human rights abuses associated with Canadian mining companies around the world.”

She said the Canadian government has been hearing calls from around the world for over 12 years to develop accountability mechanisms and has yet to implement any credible mechanisms. TVIRD has over the past repeatedly denied all allegations and accusations against the company.

Ordered Closed

In the Philippines, Secretary Gina Lopez, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, ordered the closure of 23 metallic mines in the country, while suspending five more, for serious environmental violations discovered during the industry-wide audit conducted by the agency since July 2016.

“My issue here is not about mining. My issue here is social justice. If there are businesses and foreigners that go and utilize the resources of that area for their benefit and the people of the island suffer, that’s social injustice,” Lopez said.

She said the closure orders were based on the final results and recom- mendations of the multisectoral audit teams formed to look into the compliance of mining operators with the existing environmental laws and regulations.

The mining firms ordered closed were the following:

• Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., all in Zambales province, due mainly to siltation of rivers, destruction of a functional watershed and illegal treecutting.

• Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp., Emir Minerals Corp., and Techiron Mineral Resources Inc. in Homonhon mainly for siltation of coastal waters and destruction of functional watershed.

• AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration, Kromico Inc., Sinosteel Philippines H.Y. Mining Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., Wellex Mining Corp., Libjo Mining Corp., Oriental Vision Mining Phils. Corp., in Dinagat Islands mainly for siltation of coastal waters.

• ADNAMA Mining Resources Corp., Claver Mineral Development Corp., Platinum Group Metals Corp., CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corp., and Hinatuan Mining Corp. in Surigao del Norte mainly for siltation of coastal waters and mining in functional watersheds.

• Benguet Corporation in Itogon, Benguet and Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp. in Bulacan were likewise issued suspension orders by Lopez.

She also deferred to give a decision on the fate of Filminera Resources Corp. pending further investigation.

The five mining companies that were issued suspension orders are Berong Nickel Corp., Oceanagold Phils., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp., Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. and Strong Built Mining Development Corp.

According to DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna, the companies can file for a Motion for Reconsideration to the DENR within 15 days from receipt of the order. Luna said the DENR decision can still be appealed to the Office of the President.

The DENR had earlier assured the mining sector and the general public that due process was “meticulously observed” in the audit of all existing metallic mines nationwide. It also assured that the audit results “really promote the common good and social justice” espoused by Lopez and President Rodrigo Duterte.

A staunch advocate of responsible mining, Lopez has made it clear that the common good and the protection of the environment would be her paramount concern, not money. She emphasized that no mining company can operate in a functional watershed which protects water sources. “Water is life. We will not allow the water of our people to be at risk for any business interest,” Lopez said.

Environmentalists also urged Lopez to review again the mining operations of TVI in Zamboanga del Sur’s Bayog town where Subanen natives opposed the entry of the company in Balabag for various reasons. TVIRD also operated in Zamboanga del Norte’s Siocon town where natives also opposed the mining operations.

(Mindanao Examiner Photo)

A truck is dwarfed by the destruction of this mountain in the mining operation of TVI Resource Development (Phils.) Inc.in Zamboanga del Norte province.

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